If I may start with a sweeping generalization, we EMS folk maintain an odd and somewhat dysfunctional relationship with our gear. We love our gear, but we hate it. We chastise others for carrying to much stuff. We chastise ourselves for not carrying enough. Or just not carrying the thing that we could really use right now. (Read vomit bag, seat beltcutter, flashlight.)
There’s a commonly held belief that the longer you’re in EMS the less stuff on you tend to carry around with you. this observation is sometimes extended to paid vs. volunteer personnel as well. I’m not so sure that’s true. There are, however, clearly different styles.
Lately I got to thinking about what kind of stuff the typical EMT responder carries around with him / her. What is considered kosher and what’s excessive? Are there things we can all agree should be in your pocket or on your belt. Are there any equipment gems that I might be overlooking?
To that end I asked a whole bunch of EMS responders from around the Internet and around my system to tell me what they were carrying in their pockets. After editing out some of the more obvious or personal findings (Wallet, keys, Britney Spears fan club cards) here are my not-so-scientific results. Ask your doctor first, results may vary. Here’s what the folks who know are carrying with them.
Gloves: As a testament to our overzealous pursuit of barrier protection, a full 62% of all respondents carry a pair of gloves on their person. I didn’t think you could get 62% of us to agree on anything. Some use a glove pouch but most of us just stuff a pair in our pocket. Your infectious disease control officer would be proud.
A Pen: In my straw poll, the pen was indeed mightier than the sword. (or pocket knife for that matter.) 58% of us keep a pen or two or three on our person. However, only 24% report carrying a notebook as well. This leads me to believe that I’m not the only one who does the write on the glove thing. (I know it’s tacky. My therapist is working with me on it.)
A Cell Phone: Surprisingly, only 51% of responders reported or were caught red handed with a cell phone on them. I imagined this number to be much higher. I’m still not convinced that there wasn’t some kind of evasive omissions going on here. Perhaps next time I’ll include random searches in my methodology. Or maybe I could … hang on, I need to take this call.
Trauma Shears: Tied for fourth place with the flashlight, trauma shears my be the true hallmark of the EMS gear ensemble. I can’t count how many pairs I’ve been through in my career. Some lasted days. some hung around for years and years but all of them eventually made their way to someones gear bag or under some patients couch or dashboard. My service now has shears stocked everywhere and I find I no longer need to keep a pair in my belt but sometimes I miss the feel of having them there. I could carry some on my days off. Do you think people would talk?
The Flashlight: Along with the shears, 33% of responders carry some sort of flashlight, pen light or key-chain light with them. The trend seems to have moved away from the big D-cell mag-lite type flashlights that were popular a decade ago toward a more sleek hand-light or pocket friendly pen light. Better for patient assessment, worse for bonking unruly partners over the skull when they make a move on your nachos. (He always takes the chip with the most cheese on it.)
A Knife: From boot knives to flip-jobers (My unofficial term for folding knives. Yes, you can use it too.) 28% of EMS workers carry some form of knife or cutting tool. These are more common with EMSers who couple their duties with some sort of rescue function though they seem to be popular with urban medics as well. After I became a firefighter, I traded in my knife for a multi-tool and never looked back. Is that a Spyderco in your pocket?
A Medical Pocket Guide: Only 16% of folks reported carrying some sort of pocket guide. These ranged from protocol books to pharmacopoeias to flip guides. Some responders like being able to look stuff up on the fly. I’ve never been to good at referencing info while the call is in motion but I do like to track one down for the occasional med look-up. When that happens I need to hunt down the dude who actually carries one. Now I know who to ask.
A Mulit-tool: 12% of my survey responding minions keep a multi-tool with them. 32% reported saying the phrase, “Hey, dose anyone have a mulit-tool on them?” at least once this month. (OK, I made that last statistic up.)
A Stethoscope: A surprisingly few 10% of us report carrying their stethoscope. Perhaps people were thrown off by the “pockets” part of the question. When I wore the BDU style pant with the cargo pockets I kept my steh in there. Now I just keep it in the cab and throw it on before a call. Am I the only one that gets a headache if I leave it around my neck to long?
Other stuff: There were plenty of other items ranking down in the single digit percentages. One or more people also report always carrying lip balm (Some people are addicted to that stuff.), a lock pick kit (?), a cliff bar, a vomit bag, a window punch, a spoon (think system status response), various trauma dressings, a small IV roll (I did that for a while too), a shift calendar, a bible and an MP3 player. (I’m guessing he didn’t like his partner much.)
So what’s in your pockets? Are there any other can’t-live-without essentials that should be on our list?